Jan 16 2017

CoSN’s Planning Tool Helps Schools Move to a Digital Environment

Framework offers up best practices to accelerate your digital transformation.

The ideal educational environment is one in which students are learning 21st century skills along with academic content, teachers are innovating and incorporating new best practices, and instruction is informed by data. Achieving this ideal in school systems is not easy. Fortunately, the Consortium for School Networking has developed a roadmap to help school leaders realize and sustain the ideal.

CoSN’s Framework for School System Technology Success helps school leaders accelerate their progress toward making the digital leap and reaching these ambitious technology goals. The framework outlines the best practices needed to be a 21st century school system and consists of 10 implementation categories for operational readiness in a digital environment.

The framework was developed and vetted by educational technology leaders from school systems that have been successful in making the digital leap. It recognizes the need to start with a vision and educational goals, and then build plans, policies and infrastructure around that vision. It provides examples of evidence to show mastery in each strand. Here are those 10 best practices:

1. Leadership and Vision Drive the Tech Plan

It starts with a vision rooted in educational goals. The vision must inform and drive the plan. The framework looks for evidence of distributed holders, and a commitment to equity. Leaders support a process for educators to initiate, share and reflect on the results of promising, innovative practices.

2. Strategic Planning Creates Metrics

It goes without saying that successful school systems utilize strategic plans to map the way. An effective plan has clear goals, metrics and an alignment of resources. The framework provides the steps necessary to effectively transform a vision into a long-range plan with specific action steps.

3. Developing Tech Ethics and Policies

It is all too easy to have a digital implementation derailed because school leaders did not anticipate all of the policies necessary to support their efforts. School systems need policies that range from a responsible-use strategy and guidelines for social media use to measures that outline privacy, security and disaster recovery procedures.

It is important that school systems not allow decisions to be made that are contrary to student and educator needs. A robust network that no one uses because of arcane policies or high-handed internet filtering is obviously undesirable.

4. Instructional Focus and Professional Development Boosts Outcomes

Maintaining focus on advancing instructional techniques is the key that unlocks technological investments. Professional development that is job-embedded and ongoing is essential to moving toward a culture that embraces continuous improvement and data-informed instruction, and that values a wide range of student outcomes.

5. Team Building and Staffing Created Around Digital Vision

As school systems realize early goals, it may be necessary to make some shifts in staffing. Districts can support the vision for a digital environment by updating job descriptions, providing professional growth opportunities and aligning the organizational chart. These are critical for building successful teams.

6. Keeping Stakeholder Focus in Mind

CoSN’s framework recognizes that school systems must develop relationships and reach out to community stakeholders. Success often is impacted by how well the school system can partner with those who are invested in the framework’s vision and plan; and how well it can gather, evaluate and act upon feedback in order to increase stakeholder satisfaction.

7. Infrastructure Must Align with New Tech

Sadly, stories of school systems leaping to purchase devices for every student before they have the infrastructure in place are all too common. In contrast, those systems that are successful in a digital transformation already have a robust infrastructure aligned to industry standards, effective and secure architecture and design, adequate connectivity, and software tools to manage the network and devices.

8. Information and Data Management Are Key

Schools must have efficient systems to execute the framework. Increasingly, everything from bus routes to school lunches, assessments and data portals all depend on technology. Confirming that student data, workflow and data reporting are managed privately are foundational requirements.

9. Good Communication Management Is the Expectation

Quick and proficient communication with all stakeholders is an expectation for every school system. The framework highlights the need for school systems to effectively market their digital vision to all stakeholders, including a compelling rationale for the effort and expense of a comprehensive digital plan.

10. Good Business Management Helps Meet Goals

Business functions should be employed to ensure that funding, resources and roadmaps contribute to the long-term sustainability of the strategic plan. If done well, these functions ensure that key performance indicators are met, and that the system has the resources needed to meet the goals of the strategic plan and achieve its vision.

For a peer-to-peer review utilizing the framework, contact Robert Duke, CoSN’s chief operating officer, at rduke@cosn.org. For more information, log on to cosn.org/schoolsuccess.

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